Friday, May 30, 2008

May's Monthly Musings through the Modicum and Medium of Manuscripts (books/mooks)

May was a good month. Having celebrated the birth of my first daughter on April 28th, I had time off from work and was able to read some books that were quite interesting.

Prince Caspian - C.S. Lewis

I'll admit, I skipped rereading the other parts of the Chronicles of Narnia to have a fresh remembrance of the book before seeing this movie with my son. It was great to reread it and think on Lucy's special ability to see Aslan and her difficulty working with her siblings who did not see, and I also remembered the greatness of Lewis' application of the truth of history on this world to his imaginary one; that is to say, he captures the way that great truths are often asleep in the world and at times it seems like they are lost, but they have a great way of coming back to life. Now, I suppose here is a proper place to discuss my thoughts on the movie. I thought it better than the portrayal of The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, which seemed so wooden in its film version of the book. I really enjoyed the altered sequence and expanded dialogue among the Telmarines. I did, however, feel like vomiting when artistic license lead to sparks of love between Susan Pevensie and Caspian. Especially ridiculous was her stating something to the effect of, "Oh well, it wouldn't have worked out, as I am 1300 years older than you.", whereupon they kissed prior to their departure. That almost ruined the entire movie-thankfully, almost really never was.

The Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck

I had long felt a void in my life for not having read this book. For whatever reason, my high school English teachers were among the few in California who didn't assign this. I had bought this book over a year ago, but like The Winter of Our Discontent, it took me awhile to actually read it. Once I got it starting, this book was a great way to reflect upon my own desires to leave one part of the country to get to California. Eerie overlaps of my fate with the Joad family have since occurred, but at the end of the day, I found this book to be far too deep for a high schooler to have read. If you read it back then, read it afresh and see what I mean. It deals with religion, sexuality, and economics on a very adult level. At the end of the day, Steinbeck offers a bleak perspective on all three of these issues, and life in general, which is fitting considering his background. Speaking of movie adaptations, I'm about one hour into John Ford's classic direction of The Grapes of Wrath. Thus far it is quite enjoyable, with crisp filmography and faithful portrayal of the struggles in the book. I will say that Henry Fonda is the worst part--he seems quite unconvincing as an Okie, but then again I think movie studios care more about big names.

Catholicism for Dummies

In my studies of Catholicism I have felt a bit stuffy from time to time as I have wrestled and grappled with authors of great intellectual weight. So it seemed fitting to step back and read a book that was designed to be simple. While simple it was still a good and fast read, covering the basics and offering defenses of particular Catholic doctrines. I'd recommend it to others interested in this subject.

The Russian Church and the Papacy - Vladimir Soloviev

Speaking of intellectual heavyweights, Vladimir Soloviev had really caught my attention when I heard about him. Contemporary of Dostoyevsky who allegedly inspired him to create the character of Alyosha Karamazov, the man was famous in Russia for having left the Eastern Orthodox churches to profess allegiance to Rome. He wrote the work used for this translation that was recently published for US readers. The book offers striking arguments for the centrality of the Bishop of Rome, using historical arguments that often include citations of Eastern Fathers. It has become clear to me from this book that the Eastern case of conciliar leadership as the root of unity fails upon historical analysis. Particularly striking was his account of the Robber Council of Ephesus and Chalcedon. It left me thinking that if it's between Rome and the East, it's no question that Rome is in the right.

St. Francis of Assisi - G.K. Chesterton

St. Francis has been intriguing to me for a long time. From his statement that runs something like "preach the gospel to every creature, and use words if necessary" to his kindness to animals, he has been mysterious to me. To read my one of my favorite authors discussing him was a true joy-he captures Francis' greatness in his own Chestertonian voice.

The Path to Rome - Hilaire Belloc

This story is thought by many (including Belloc himself) to be his greatest book. No, it is not a case defending Catholicism, though the book contains many asides on religion. The book is a collection of asides, in a sense, based on Belloc's amazing trek from France to Rome. The book made me laugh out loud so many times, as he enjoys little stories to his Lector, who complains as he writes. The joi de vivre is evident throughout the book. For a time, I thought I possibly liked his writing more than Chesterton, but I think I still have a softer spot for Chesterton. One shouldn't have to choose, so I won't really say that Chesterton is better.

Oh well, it was a great set of books for the month. June is even better. I have realized that Flannery O'Connor really is as good as so many people have said in the past.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

the statements just before and after the song...

Veni David Bazan and Sing a Song of My Lost Home

Song #1

All the way up here
I was thinking it over
I wished we could drink some beer
And work it out
My lungs were burning
I was starting to worry
I couldn’t catch my breath
Or slow my heart beat
We took your photograph
We thought we’d would have a few good laughs
At your expense
Here You thought we were your friends
I guess now you know
Or do you?
Are they really people like that?
Or is this guy just...
Making shit up
for pity parties
and feeling sorry for himself?
we were begging for mercy
You were holding a gas can
You had our hands tied
behind our backs.
I started crying
Cause I thought it was over
You pulled a matchbook
from your back pocket.
We took your photograph
We thought we’d have a few good laughs
At your expense
Here You thought we were your friends
I guess now you know
We knew you were half and half
But we never knew you were a psychopath
Or that you’d have the last laugh
I guess now we know

And Song #2

You don't regret it. i don't regret it anymore.
I'm supposed to call you to make sure you know
I know it's over you've known it's over for awhile
Why the smoke screen why can't you say what you mean
All the stolen kisses all the pink and brown
If you want to end it babe just pull the plug and shut it down
No one sees it coming but every body knows
If you want the money you just have to take it.
If you don't regret it then what's with you staring at the floor
All remorseful like you're not sure what happened
All the stolen kisses all the pink and brown
If you want to end it you just pull the plug and shut it down
No one sees it coming but every body knows
If you want the money then just have to take it
Or you'll never make it

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Your Orson Welles Clip of the Day

With great Chestertonian wit, Welles captivates me yet again in this brief clip of an interview.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Gaius Valerius on Trial

They brought him to the tribunal, his shackles the only sounds that rose above the murmurs of the Roman audience.

"We've got another one of them. His mouth was red with blood when we found him. He said it was wine, but we heard the words loud and clear. The rest of the lot ran through the catacombs and got away. There must have been some sort of secret escape door, because we followed them to its very end and could not find them. Or maybe they used some magic arts to disappear. But this one here had a limp and was slower than the rest." The leader of this ragtag group of soldiers explained at length that this man was another cannibal that called himself a follower of Jesus, as he approached the judge with his captive.

"Disgusting, really, this new fad. I cannot see how right reason and common sense are not enough for these Palestinians."

Their attention looked with disgust and disdain, turning to this rather commonplace looking man named Gaius Valerius. Indeed, he was another of these who claimed that a crucified criminal was not merely a god, but the only God who could rescue the empire from another Nero and bring them all to a life that never ended.

But Nero had spoken loudly, and he spoke clearly. These Christians were sinister. Some had questioned his accusation that they were responsible for the fires at Rome, and some went as far as to wonder whether or not Nero had himself been responsible for that great conflagration. But regardless, men like Gaius Valerius made it clear-whatever it was these Christians believed, there was deep magic in it. Most citizens who were respectable and able to enjoy leisure and philosophy would go further and say that that magic was surely dark in its nature.

The judge was nibbling on some cheese and grapes in between folding and unfolding his hands. "Look here, Gaius Valerius. You are kinsman of Flavius Valerius, noted scholar on Horace's poetic greats, are you not?"

At length the humbled man in chains looked up and said, "Yes, he is my younger brother. You may have heard my own orations on Ovid, who was a great friend of my departed father. I had studied Ovid with my mind enraptured by love, while my brother's nose was always pointed at the sky in heavenly contemplation in his readings of Horace. But now, sir, I am a changed man. For I know the source of all love and blessing. I have found these things in the Lamb that was slain for the sins of all."

The magistrate and his closest companions were unsettled. This was no rabble rouser, he had studied the great thinkers of Roman work. He was no slave or laboring man, either. They were common kin in the Empire. How could he too turn to this religion of the East? And how could he turn to doing the dastardly deeds that these little Christs had done?

These and a myriad of other thoughts crossed the minds of the upstanding Romans witnessing the trial of Gaius Valerius. But, being a practically minded Latin man, the judge pressed one point to arrive at the truth.

"Brother of Flavius Valerius, are you or are you not a cannibal? This cult that you seek may purport to preach love, but your sect cannot love the one that it devours? Do you or do you not consume the body and blood of this one that you worship?"

All eyes were fixed on the man whose gaze stared fixedly at the lawgiver who was his peer on paper, but his likely bane in reality.

"Ah, my dearest judge. I am in a prime position to offer clarity over this issue. For many years, the Christian people, of whom I am unashamed to call myself a member, have been accused of a rapacious thirst for the blood of our Lord. But this is where we have been read wrongly. For all that we do in this sacrament of thanksgiving is to remember our Lord. We remember that Christ shed his blood by offering his body for us. We do not think that it is his body or blood, and so we are no more cannibals than the average Roman citizen who will drink the wine from the vineyards of Seneca and think of Seneca. Christ broke bread and drank wine before he died, and we are simply remembering him by remembering that same last meal by repeating it."

The judge raised his eyebrows throughout these words and whispered words to his close aides.

"Dear Gaius, I see that your wisdom is just. And if you can promise to me that you will teach these Christian friends of yours to think as you do, and to never eat the flesh of another man, which is barbaric and cruel, then I will speak to Caesar of this gross misunderstanding." And with a flabby flick of his neck he turned to the guards and shouted, "Release this Roman citizen! And seek more solid proof of cannibalism in the future! I'm sure there are other crimes that other less noble people from this Jewish sect have committed. Seek their conviction for the sake of nobility and justice on those grounds, but do not trifle me on this matter of cannibalism again!"

And so it was that the Christian faith was no longer tried and accused of cannibalism.

this brief story is based on this thought I had awhile back. it still strikes me as clear proof that most churches that are not Catholic, Orthodox, or perhaps Lutheran would have never been accused of cannibalism if they were living under an empire such as the Roman empire. Yesterday was the feast of Corpus Christi, and thinking of the body of Christ in a spiritual, corporate, and group sense, I cannot escape the thinking that many have sold this sacrament short.

Or to hear the actual words of someone living within 70 years of Christ's resurrection, St. Justin Martyr said in his First Apology:

"And this food is called among us the Eucharist, of which no one is allowed to partake but the man who believes that the things which we teach are true, and who has been washed with the washing that is for the remission of sins, and unto regeneration, and who is so living as Christ has enjoined. For not as common bread and common drink do we receive these; but in like manner as Jesus Christ our Saviour, having been made flesh by the Word of God, had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so likewise have we taught that the food which is blessed by the prayer of His word, and from which our blood and flesh by transmutation are nourished, is the flesh and blood of that Jesus who was made flesh. For the apostles, in the memoirs composed by them, which are called Gospels, have thus delivered unto us what was enjoined upon them; that Jesus took bread and when He had given thanks, said, 'This do in remembrance of Me, this is My body'; (Lk.22:19) and that after the same manner, having taken the cup and given thanks, He said, 'This is My blood'; (Mt. 26:28) and gave it to them alone."

Somehow I think that Justin Martyr would have been martyred by the judge in my fictitious story, for he could not appeal to this as a mere symbol as Gaius Valerius did in my whimsical story.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

poetry by jxd--a guest blog

My son handed me this poem about two weeks ago. I could be blind with paternal affection but I really like it for the simplicity of the metaphor. But let's not let my analysis ruin anything.

Here's a picture of the first draft:

Here are the words of the poem spelled correctly. He wants his growing audience to note the fact that the title rhymes with his name appended. Whenever I find the sequel, I'll be sure to post it as well.

tree on a tree: poem by jxd
once upon a time there was a boy
who saw a tree on a tree.
the boy climbed the tree on a tree,
it was so high that it reached the sky.
the boy was so scared that he fainted
he fell and he died.

*p.s. I've decided to let him post his writings on his own site. So bookmark today!

your daily inspiration

Monday, May 19, 2008

The Folly of Flowers

In this world of lies and insincerity, many times it seems as though we are shrouded in doubt and fear, unable to see how to live our lives. The idea that there is such a thing as true love is relegated to relic status, some archaic notion that existed prior to the latest invention or school of thought but surely not something to embrace today.

Born into such a climate on a societal and personal level, my mind as a child was set upon leaving home and forming my own environment that would not be full of the things that I considered to be the normal abnormality-and so I swam upstream by forsaking all that was familiar to this world. To flee fraudulent love, I sought to be free of all that was attached to it.

For I knew so many individuals who were married or couples that had no real love for each other--no brightening conversations that spoke of a common bond, no desire to give up what one wanted for the sake of the other. If there was such a desire, it was at least not acted upon. And yet, I also lived in a world where every two months or so some obligatory holiday enforcing that archaic notion of love would creep across the screens of the television and hypnotize the unloving beasts of burdened matrimony into automatons of amor. And so a husband who never spoke to his wife would dutifully bestow the appropriate gift of flowers, candy, a card, jewelry, or whatever the latest experts had dictated to be digno de alabanza in the world of love. And that action supposedly wrought love ex opere. But I knew it for what it was; it was a paper house founded upon lies and held together by beams of vanity. To flee from such mentality I needed to flee from the culture as a whole.

And so it was that when I was in high school and in love I kicked against the goads of the proms, dances and other ceremonial sappiness. The corsages were exchanged but I would always offer the qualifying phrase that this was all adiaphora. The reality of my love was outside of such tangible things and was more sublimely abstract.

As time went on in the courtship of Mrs. Deane, I recall being in the dormitory as a junior in my undergraduate studies. A blaze of passionate disagreement had brewed, as I had yet again spurned the notion that the giving flowers would ever be something a "genuine" human would appreciate.

Surely they had some place among the sincere couples?

That was the cry of my plaintiff, but this judge, jury and bailiff cried out in protest.

And so the folly of flowers was established to be what it was. I myself had thought about my opposition to the commonplace expressions of love and knew intuitively that expressions of love were indeed still needed. So anything that was out of the ordinary was embraced and utilized as a conduit of my way of expressing myself.

Sure, it was interesting and exciting to give an atypical gift that was given at an unexpected time, but to say that one realm of gifts was verboten because of their abuse left a vacuum in my own mind. I can only speculate (with much trembling) as to what this experiment in absconding wrought in the mind of my wife.

And so, slowly but surely, with no nagging (after all, such dastardly deeds of dames serve only to distract from change in the convinced man's heart) on her part, I have come to see this to be the folly of flowers.

Just because one person has taken a gift and perjured themselves by offering it as a token of their love says nothing of the gift in itself. This, of course, brings me to the topic du jour that has captivated my mind.

For we find in one set of buildings where people call upon Jesus, that there are folks who tremble with fear that they will become mindless because others were mindless when they recited something repetitively.

They have heard of people who chanted with no heart, and so they who burned in their hearts sought to rid the world of chanting, not heartlessness. They say this even though they know that recitation is as ingrained upon our minds as wanting a drink when one is thirsty.

They have heard of some unholy holy men who, tortured out of a realization that their calling from God to be a "eunuch for the kingdom" was fraudulent, turned to hideous nameless deeds of lust in frustration. In response, these people say that the key is to rid the world of celibacy, and not the crimes that really hurt people. They reason, "Surely that passage about being a 'eunuch for the kingdom' was temporally and culturally contingent!"

But woe to you if you suggest to these same people that other statements of Christ were somehow relativistic! For then they will come to the defense of our Lord with a ferocity unrivaled.

I could multiply my examples, but I think the point is clear, and this post is getting voluminous as it stands.

Just as my teenage heart saw insincerity in the world of romance, most Christians flee from embracing good practices because of abuses thereof. Many people who have crossed my path in life have turned to a complete abandonment of Christianity because of the abuses thereof. Some have stood their ground and thought that there was some way to not fully abandon Christianity, but they have found many practices that they cannot tolerate due to abuses. In every instance, the solution to the abuse of a good practice is a change in the heart, not the practice. But the folly of flowers is to deny that which is abused. I hope I have convinced you that to do this is really to deny the goodness of the world itself. To abandon these parts of the world is to abandon reason, and the fullness of life that comes when one lives under the light of reason. I also hope that the fragmentation of our world that has come about through this abandonment will end, so that we can be reunited into a world of people who are not afraid to be who we know we should have been all along.

Friday, May 16, 2008

thanks to joe m. for this image.....

Thursday, May 15, 2008

real moments

There are times when we drive a car or walk this earth and feel as though it is all a dream. We pass a great distance and come to see that much of our journeying was done unconsciously. There are other occasions when the flow of time is regular and predictable, and things feel like life is normal. And then there are moments that leave such indelible marks on one's mind that it feels like even those normal moments were actually passed unconsciously. The ardent fervor of the memories from such real moments is breathtaking, and should arouse wonder. It's as though we only truly live when things are as brilliant and crisp as those rare occasions.

Now, I am not writing to denigrate normal existence per se, but to extol those moments when life's beauty was met with an appreciation equal to the grandeur thereof.

I am thinking back to a period of time roughly eight years ago when one of those searing impressions were left upon my mind. In many ways, life during that period of time was very similar to my current locale. Instead of living near the huge machine of the federal government, we were within earshot of the corporate machine of Disneyland. Fireworks would serenade us every night, as we considered the direction of our family on individual and corporate levels. I can recall the utter horror of wondering whether graduate school was a wise decision, especially as the arbitration over that issue is ongoing. I recall what was perhaps still the largest argument in my blossoming marriage to date, namely the prudence of a table that sat eight people (without the insert, mind you!) in a ramshackle apartment in Anaheim.

So much was on the table, in a literal and a metaphorical sense. Bereft of a church to call home, and seemingly disgusted with all of the options before us, I did what was supposed to be the simplest of all things by proposing to study a random book of the Bible. My wife proposed reading the letter of Paul to the Romans-a good choice as we had at one point pondered memorizing it in its entirety. Sitting at that cursed Ikea table, I can still recall my aversion to such an idea.

I knew the grand theological depth of Romans would only underscore my confusion. The church where I was first cognizant of the story of the Gospels had emphasized the individual's initial moment of belief, with little to say about the world apart from prognostications of its decay.

I also knew that this depth in Romans had led to hotly contested interpretations between various traditions of Christian faith. Not ready to decide on a career and a theological school, I hoped to postpone true investigation of this book for a later time. It was clear to me that thinking deeply on this would force my hand. While I wanted to find a church, I did not want to be overwhelmed or hasty. And as time passed, I thought through my options and I can recall being disgusted with my options--to continue in what is known as Arminianism, embrace Calvinism, come up with my own school of theology, and oh yes, there was also the view of salvation that is propounded by Roman Catholics and Orthodox. But if you note, I placed that option last, behind the notion of coming up with my own school of thought. And this is true not only of the order, but the priority. It was unthinkable that that last option could even be a possibility. Never mind the fact that I hadn't read upon it, and that I had spent several years shelving Calvinism in a similar manner.

And that brings me back to the start of this point. There was something so sharp about my folly of those times, when I realize that my heart was so opposed to an established set of views that I would imagine that a biology student would be more likely to have found an undiscovered truth of theology. It would be seven years until I would really place this older view in its appropriate order, and investigate its claims.

It's also tragic because I had an understanding that finding a witness to an idea in history mattered. As I studied Arminianism vs. Calvinism, the mere fact that there were far more scholarly books by Calvinists impressed me. When I studied apologetics, I even proposed writing a treatise on the presppositional school of thought by appealing to Church Fathers' works of apologetics. On an interesting side note, I was dissuaded from doing so, and the more I think about these matters the more I understand why this is the case--the Church Fathers would have taught me to believe that reason is a true guide of man, but I digress.

In all of those instances I approached theological issues in a similar manner as I would approach an adherent of Mormonism or Seventh Day Adventism or some other recent arrival to this world. I challenged the validity of these schools of thought by simply posing the question, how could the people of God have missed such a fundamental truth for so long? In that real moment sitting in my apartment in Anaheim, I proposed that it was possible for me to develop my own systematic theology, rather than consider an ancient tradition. It will never leave my mind that this preference was based on utter folly.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Stone Caster

The crushed grass and sandy earth crumbled in their fingers, as they sifted for rocks that would kill the girl who had defied the all-holy law of Moses. She had been caught in adultery, in the very act, or so they said as a crowd of many came to see justice done. But where was the man with whom she did the deed? No response was offered. All that mattered was that they had the girl. Maybe it's because the girls are the real temptresses. Surely no man could be held responsible for falling for a glance full of thirst, a thirst for pleasure. And so, the sages and scholars had gathered to make sure that none would be drawn by her cords of kindness again. The rocks were collected, and it was a mere matter of aiming and putting one more sinner in their grave. And surely, this grave would not make the rolls of heaven come judgment day.

But it was not to be-for the Teacher who had crossed their stage at the brink of this woman's execution more than once had some thoughts about who could be worthy of executing judgment, and who ought first consider their own sins.

This prophet, priest and soon to be king also knelt down to touch the land, but with different purposes. Instead of gathering the tools of a murderer or executioner, he began to write upon the earth. Many sages and philosophers have wondered what it was that the Teacher wrote, but at the end of the day, the girl was spared. She was to go and sin no more, and most likely she didn't obey his sage advice. But she was spared nonetheless.

Years later, some would also ask whether this tale was contrived, added into later editions of the Holy Books. Maybe some were sneaking in desires to make capital punishment atrocious to the conscience, or maybe the pens of the scribes wanted to spice up Scripture with salacious tales of misdeeds and lust.

Again, we can wonder whether this happened or not, but no one wonders whether the Teacher had words to say to those in power in the religious sphere.

For passage after passage utters words that would make an honest reader who reads with their mind open and not anesthetized want to vomit. To call someone a whitewashed tomb that is rotting away is to conjure images of decaying flesh, complete with wriggling worms doing their best to decompose the carcass of a pillar of the committee.

Or how about the words that state that these men were blind leaders of the blind, who caused children to stumble, and as such are worthy of having a huge stone tied around their necks? They would be surely lost, sleeping with the fishes, mafia style.

Oh those Pharisees--the name itself is now synonymous with all that is hypocritical and self-justifying. Can anything good come from them? Are they the new Nazareth that was once the disdained home of the nobodys and vagrants of the first century?

And that is where the story turns to a page that we have not read, but we can see the effects. Maybe some other scribes failed to fill in these lines to the gospels, but we can see too clearly that the thinking of many would lead one to another story.

Imagine the scene of the adulteress, nearly killed but thankfully the hands the Pharisees have been stayed by the simple conviction of Christ's statement. The scrolls are unrolled, and what would we read in this lost scene?

No one cast a stone at the adulteress, for the Pharisees knew that they were in far greater sin for having doubted whether Jesus was the Christ. And it came to pass that the Pharisees said unto Jesus, "Teacher, you say that you are wise, and that he who is without sin should cast the first stone. Therefore, if you are without sin, why have you not cast the stone?"

And Jesus responded, "It is written, 'Vengeance is mine, I shall repay.'"

Whereupon the Pharisees were shunned by Christ and his followers, and the disciples never paid heed to the words of the Pharisees again. When they entered the synagogues and the Temple, the disciples would close their ears if a scribe or Pharisee spoke, out of fear of the Lord. Simon Peter and other disciples sought to stone them, but Jesus bade them to stay their hands. And much fear was upon the people.

Some will easily note the poor writing quality that would make this fragment of a lost gospel unbelievable. And I too would be on your side were you to form a committee in opposition to this accretion to the word of God.

But again, I'd ask you to venture to those days. Put yourself in the sandals of a first century Palestinian and imagine the landscape of power politics at play, where the Pharisees are standing their ground in the face of a man who could do miracles and lay claim to certain birth characteristics that would point at him as Messiah.

To have failed to see the light here would make most people assume that their words were vain puffs of smoke in the imagination of man's pride and vanity.

But is that what we read in the holy Gospels?

With the actual passages such as the whitewashed tombs and blind leaders of blind, one might assume this to be the whole picture. But as usual, we humans in our own blindness and extremism would be missing something enormous, for the whole picture speaks more words than these about the Pharisees.

For the shocking reality is that interwoven between the denunciations of Christ is a staunch affirmation of these religious leaders.

In the gospel of St. Matthew, Christ says something that I had overlooked for thirteen years, until it was recently brought to my attention.

Christ said these poignant words that have not left my mind for several months--

The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, so practice and observe whatever they tell you— but not what they do. For they preach, but do not practice. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger. Matthew 23:2-4

For years I had read this passage and focused on the horrible burdens placed on God's people by the Scribes and Pharisees. Again, the notion of a blanket condemnation of these men seemed to be the only way to look at the institution of religious leaders in Israel. But what Christ actually says in the beginning is quite the opposite. He commended the people to practice and observe whatever the Pharisees and scribes told them to do! But how could this be? According to Jesus, there was something special about this seat of Moses, that seems to have ensured that what was said by the scribes and Pharisees was worthy of following, despite the fact that these individuals had not believed in Jesus.

These words have led me to see that in many sense I too have been a Pharisee, for I have sought to cast stones at another institution of religious leaders. They have been appointed from generation to generation from the initiation of the Christian Church, and in my faithlessness and cynicism I have assumed that their status meant nothing. And as I think on these words I am coming to see that there has always been a special protection on the religious leaders, from the Pharisees' day to our own. Surely, it is no protection from hypocrisy and horrible deeds, and the histories of the world are replete with examples of such tragedies. But at the end of the analysis, I cannot see how this hypothetical lost gospel where Christians ignored Christ's words by ignoring the words of the Pharisees would not be the same as what many Christians have done.

For Christ himself said that he was going to build a Church. If Moses' seat could have a special protection, how could the new lawgiver of the covenant written on our hearts establish a worse government, by founding it without a similar protection?

Friday, May 9, 2008

roadside travelers, unite and take over

This link is a real source of inspiration.

The issue of immigration

Como el águila en vuelo
como la fiera en celo
desafiando fronteras
defendiendo el honor
he pasado la vida explorando
otras tierras para darles a mis
hijos un mañana mejor.

Si la muerte me alcanza en su loca
carrera envuelto en mi bandera que me
lleven allá, que me canten el himno de
mi patria diez meses o me muero dos
veces si me entierran acá.

De paisano a paisano del hermano
al hermano por querer trabajar, nos
han hecho la guerra patrullando
fronteras no nos pueden domar.

De paisano a paisano del hermano
al hermano ese hombre es llorar,
como duele la patria cuando llora
mi raza llanto internacional.

*De paisano a paisano antes de seguir
cantando yo le pregunto al patrón, quien
recoge la cosecha quien trabaja en la
limpieza hoteles y restaurants y
quien se mata trabajando en construcción
mientras el patrón regaña tejiendo la
telaraña en su lujosa mansión.

Muchas veces ni nos pagan, para que
sale la llaga como sale envenenada
nos echan la inmigración si con mi
canto pudiera derrumbaría las fronteras
para que el mundo viviera con una
sola bandera en una misma nación*.

De paisano a paisano del hermano
al hermano por querer trabajar, nos
han hecho la guerra patrullando
fronteras no nos pueden domar.

De paisano a paisano del hermano
al hermano ese hombre es llorar,
como duele la patria cuando llora
mi raza llanto internacional.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Gentle reminders of my location.

The DC area often presents itself as the pinnacle of all that is haute. And perhaps that's not inaccurate, but the point is, it is truly in denial of its Southern roots. Now, one could argue that to be Southern is to be cultured, and that may be true in an ideal sense. But let's get back to terra firma in MMVIII, year of Our Lord.

So there I was sitting on the metro going to downtown DC yesterday, when what did I spy but this ad?

Ah yes, sweet tea and fried food for breakfast. That sounds more like the South than a bunch of lawyers in expensive suits looking down their noses on public transportation. We all know the real power players would be flown in, but for whatever reason everyone thinks they are everyone in this town. If only they'd read the writing on the wall, perhaps they'd be put back into their true place in this world. Of course, I'm not advocating actually purchasing anything from this establishment that should be disestablished, but you get my drift. And if you don't, kindly drift onto another site.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

You Already Believe in Purgatory

I was reading St. Augustine's City of God yesterday, considering his arguments for how the Christian faith was not mocked despite the fact that Rome was sacked by invading hosts, when a seemingly unrelated concept became quite clear.

In book I chapter VIII, he discusses how trials and judgments themselves do not produce a lack of faith or faith in and of themselves. The real question is who the person suffering is. Let me stop summarizing and quote a portion of the chapter here:

Wherefore, though good and bad men suffer alike, we must not suppose that there is no difference between the men themselves, because there is no difference in what they both suffer. For even in the likeness of the sufferings, there remains an unlikeness in the sufferers; and though exposed to the same anguish, virtue and vice are not the same thing. For as the same fire causes gold to glow brightly, and chaff to smoke; and under the same flail the straw is beaten small, while the grain is cleansed; and as the lees are not mixed with the oil, though squeezed out of the vat by the same pressure, so the same violence of affliction proves, purges, clarifies the good, but damns, ruins, exterminates the wicked. And thus it is that in the same affliction the wicked detest God and blaspheme, while the good pray and praise. So material a difference does it make, not what ills are suffered, but what kind of man suffers them. For, stirred up with the same movement, mud exhales a horrible stench, and ointment emits a fragrant odor.

As I read this, it struck me that in many senses this is proof that all Christians believe in purgatory. The common objection to it is that Christ forgave our sins on the cross, and that any further suffering is therefore unnecessary. But that overlooks the roots of the word purgatory. Just as Augustine mentions that affliction "proves, purges, clarifies" the good, it's true that forgiven people still suffer on this earth. And woe if you think that it is purposeless would be utterly meaningless if there was no positive end result of the negative things we often endure.

And yet, that is exactly the Catholic doctrine of purgatory. In technical terminology, it would state that "temporal punishments due to sins" are inflicted through this intermediate state, but on a more philosophical level, it's what all Christians understand, albeit intuitively at times.

We are full of vices that we wish would leave us, and at moments of trials we come closer in our faith and trust in God. While the struggle will never end on earth, we long for the day when that struggle will cease. So what is so unnatural about positing that if someone were to die with loads of consequences due to sin within their soul, that they would be purged after death in the same way that this happens on earth? This is, of course, keeping in mind the fact that this person is forgiven in a "legal" sense-in fact, if there was no beginning of God's good work in us, how could there be a completion that is not only whatever state one happens to be in at death, but is truly and really complete, where we are just as holy as Christ himself? What is unnatural about saying that that person would be glorified through a purging of any bad thing that was sown?

When bad things happen many evangelicals will interpret this by saying that this is a sad result of "reaping what you sow". Likewise, it strikes me that if someone were to die without being fully transformed into the image of Christ that there must be a purgation. More standard Reformed/Protestant systematic theology would divide salvation into justification, sanctification, and glorification. But as I'm growing through my years I am seeing that these are not as isolated or cookie cutter as one would think. There is glory that comes to God's people as they grow up even before death, for example.

The point is that if one believes that glorification is true, one believes in purgatory. For to gain in glory is merely the converse of decreasing in shame-the shame that comes through prayerlessness, despair, wickedness, and the like. As for me, I hope that I go through some process that applies the objective truth of the Cross to my subjective self fully. Whether it's through growing wiser, the full apprehension of my mortality as I am dying, or through some intermediate state, or through a complex combination of these and other things as I would imagine it will be, I want to be more like Christ. And if that's what purgatory means, as I would argue, then all Christians already do believe in purgatory.

on drinking, bouncers, and dissipation

I thought this was a tragically funny accurate depiction of man's folly with fermented beverages. Some of the impressions are poor in quality but his allegory is spot on (from what I have been told from third party sources only--ha).

Friday, May 2, 2008